YouTube advertising has been a major benefit to Tubers who have made a career out of posting videos to the platform. And YouTube content has come to define entertainment for a generation. So many of the cultural touchstones for the Millennial generation have come from shared viewing on YouTube.
But there’s a dark side to the network. Hate groups, terrorists, and other bad actors use the platform to recruit new members or spread propaganda. Just as soon as the network finds and eliminates a channel, another one pops up. For the most part, YouTube users understand the problem the site is having, and though they’re not happy about it, they don’t want to give up their creative freedoms either.
There is something people would like YouTube to “fix,” though. Because of the advertising algorithm the company uses, big-name brand ads can pop up on videos posted by terrorists and others posting objectionable content. The brands don’t want their name associated with these accounts, and they certainly don’t want to make money off views on videos that could exacerbate global terror.
To that end, some companies have staged advertising boycotts on YouTube until the company can sort this problem out. Because the boycott didn’t start up until mid-March, YouTube didn’t see the result on the first quarter earnings report, but that doesn’t mean things will look quite as rosy come mid-2017.
YouTube says it’s talking directly with major advertisers, hoping to find workable solutions that both sides will support, and company spokesmen are saying the brand is working to “evolve” a fix to this ongoing problem. They understand that brands don’t want negative associations, especially in today’s caustic media environment, when so much can be taken out of context and what happens on the internet is forever.
But now some are asking if YouTube is really that motivated to make any changes in the current status quo. Sure, they don’t like the bad PR, but will losing YouTube advertisers put that much of a dent in parent company Alphabet’s income stream? Some say, “no.” This is because Google is hale and healthy, and the search engine continues to stack up cash for the company. Google ads are doing so well that temporarily losing some revenue thanks to a YouTube PR mess may not be too problematic.
Others are saying that’s a shortsighted outlook. They think that public opinion on this is just getting started and that as more people become more aware of this problem, advertising – and participation – on YouTube could take a much bigger hit. Who’s right? Time will tell, and we will be watching this closely as it unfolds.